All eyes on state

JFK’s Graham hopes for better results at OSU

John F. Kennedy’s Jimmy Graham watches his drive from the par 4 No. 17 tee box during the Division III boys golf sectional at Riverview Golf Club. Graham returns to the Ohio State University Scarlet Course this weekend for the D-III state tournament, a place where he struggled his freshman season.

Jimmy Graham saw his golf bag at this year’s Division III sectional tournament at Riverview Golf Club.

The John F. Kennedy junior saw his golf clubs turned around.

Somewhere close by, Brookfield sophomore Conner Stevens was smiling.

It’s something Graham did to Stevens.

“We love playing jokes on each other. It’s like we’re brothers,” Stevens said.

Graham finds solace in playing a round with Stevens, one of his good friends.

“There’s nothing better out there,” Graham said. “Obviously you’re not in school, so you’re obviously having fun.”

Friday, Graham hopes to keep the fun going at the Division III state boys golf tournament at The Ohio State University Scarlet Course. He’ll tee of at 10:50 a.m., Friday on No. 10.

The last time Graham was on this course was two rounds he’d rather forget — 93-95-188. It was his freshman year when JFK went to state as a team.

This year, the Eagles didn’t qualify but Graham qualified as an individual — the district runner-up qualifier. This is the second straight year the Eagles golfer qualified for state as an individual. Columbiana’s Jared Wilson, the defending state champion, was the district champ.

“We have some of the best players in the state in this area,” Graham said. “It’s good to compete with them on a daily basis.”

When Graham competes this weekend, he’ll be against some of the state’s best. However, it is himself he’s worried about the most.

A missed shot, sand trap or something in the rough. The last thing Graham wants to do is beat himself.

Graham will have JFK coach Heath Myers with him on his rounds, which plans to relax him and help the Eagles junior to keep good course management — something he didn’t have his freshman season.

“Knowing from freshman year that I can’t get upset over those shots because they will cost me,” Graham said. “I know that firsthand. I have to stay calm, keep loose and eliminate the high numbers. If I’m in trouble, I have to take my medicine, chip out and play for bogey. I can’t make those high numbers because those are going to kill my rounds.”

Stevens and Graham will follow each other’s rounds this weekend.

“We’ll be texting the night before,” Stevens said.

Both have said they’d like to play on the same college team. Youngstown State is a possibility.

“They have a lot of good players,” Stevens said. “We feel if we go there, we can bring that program up a notch.”

This time around, Graham wants to elevate his game at state. He left Tuesday to head to Columbus in hopes to be the first JFK golfer to win state since Ryan Fowler did so in 2014.

“Now, I’m aiming to win,” Graham said.

That’s something he couldn’t say two years ago.